Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday that Norway views Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory as “illegal.” She nonetheless urged increased trade between Norway and Israel, saying she opposes calls in Norway for a boycott of Israeli products.
Solberg invited Peres to the prime minister’s residence Tuesday morning, at the start of the second day of his state visit to Norway. It’s the first state visit by an Israeli head of state to Norway, and aimed at improving relations between Norway and Israel.
The state visit has attracted protests from Norwegians angry over Israel’s policy of constructing settlements in Palestinian territory. That’s widely viewed as an illegal occupation, and opponents including one of Norway’s biggest trade union federations and the Socialist Left party have called for a boycott of Israel in return.
Peres, when confronted with the occupation issue, stated that Israel can’t afford to leave the West Bank. He said the Israeli government fears the same thing will happen on the West Bank that happened in Gaza, where Palestinians have launched “several thousand rockets into Israel.”
Solberg stressed that Norway views the Israeli settlements, though, as a violation of international law and a hindrance to the peace process. She told reporters that she took that up with Peres in their morning meeting.
She added, though, that she opposes boycotts and would prefer increased trade and cooperation with Israel. “At our meeting we discussed the potential for increased trade,” Solberg told reporters. “The Norwegian government will resume negotiations on research and development with Israel. I’m certain our two countris can work well together.”
She also said it was important for Norway to hear how economic development in Israel can benefit Arab youth as well.